In “Dear Parents, From Your Child’s Loving Teacher,” Dana Arias, longtime parent, teacher, and school librarian, has written a heartfelt book with the purpose of enhancing communication between teachers and parents. Dana’s goal is for parents to understand where teachers are coming from in terms of what they actually do in the classroom and why, and what parents can do to help teachers help their children. Dana has written the book as a series of letters, like a teacher might send home with a child, each letter building on the letter before it to discuss ways parents can help their children to learn and to create an environment that will better allow them to learn.
I was really amazed by these letters because they contain simple information that should almost be common sense but that I’m sure most parents never think about. Dana walks the parents step-by-step through various topics, including how to help children to pay closer attention in the classroom and how a child’s thinking process develops. One simple example that made total sense to me was the importance of having a regular dinner time together for a family. Besides the family bonding that dinner time provides, it teaches children how to sit still for a sustained period, which will also help them with focusing on paying attention in school and sitting still while doing homework.
Homework is a big part of the discussion in these letters. Dana explains why teachers give homework, how much homework children should have, and why it needs to be consistent, not once a week but daily. Homework becomes more than homework in these discussions-it becomes a means to a child’s success as it teaches children how to manage their time, form a routine, and have structure-all elements that will help them to survive and thrive in the real world.
Something else I loved about this book was the focus on how children can become better writers. Before children can write well, they need something to write about. Most children don’t know what to say in their writing because they haven’t been taught how to converse on topics or had their self-esteem raised to believe they have things worth saying. Dana walks parents through how to converse with their children so their children feel good about themselves and believe their opinions are of value; when children are listened to, they become more open to expressing themselves in many ways, including through drawing, verbally, and in writing. Dana’s discussion here includes better ways to converse with your child, including how the conversation can help your child to improve his or her developmental thinking, which in turn helps to develop writing.
Far more information is included in this book than I can discuss here. In brief, “Dear Parents, From Your Child’s Loving Teacher” is filled with examples of games parents can play with their children, sample conversations they can have, activities, and even ways to discipline one’s child in a loving but firm way so he or she will learn to follow the rules and abide within the boundaries parents set. Dana even explains why rewarding children when they get good grades is counterproductive to their learning and development, and how to turn the situation around so children will want to succeed and do the right thing regardless of whether or not they receive a reward.
Perhaps most refreshing is how Dana takes time to talk about the importance of “me” time for parents. Parents often err on the side of doing too much for their children, thinking they have to drive their children to sporting events, playtime, and cater to their child’s every wish. The result is that children take their parents for granted and become ungrateful. Dana shows parents how to set boundaries so their children can realize that their parents do sacrifice for them and they come to love and respect their parents for all they do for them.
As I read, I kept nodding my head in agreement and amazement with all of the great advice in this book. Dana Arias, who is bilingual, having grown up in Mexico, and who teaches in a multicultural school in the Chicago area with students who speak forty different languages, is someone parents have long been waiting for. She can explain what seem like difficult concepts and make them simple so parents and children can both benefit and so parents and teachers can be on the same team together, working to succeed in their goal-children’s success. As a former English professor myself, I especially thought her discussion of writing and developmental thinking made eminent sense, and so without reservation, I can truly say that any educator, parent, or grandparent would benefit from reading “Dear Parents, From Your Child’s Loving Teacher,” and when they follow the advice in this book, their children will benefit as well.